On Sunday, Detroit’s Monument to Joe Louis was a snapshot of the nation’s anger. Chants like “Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace,” “Abolish the police” and “Fuck the police” rang out for hours from dozens of protestors. This marked the third day in a row that Detroiters joined thousands across the U.S. in demonstrations against police brutality in light of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Organized in the space of roughly 48 hours, the peaceful sit-in was the work of Detroit Queer Activist Coalition Founder Dorian Minley, who used the protest as an opportunity to address police brutality against LGBTQ black, indigenous, people of color. He said he couldn’t wait any longer.
“I was seeing so many protests, but none of them were centering queer people. I just feel like … especially in the city of Detroit, we’re really at a high percentage of people that are killed by police, especially black trans women,” Minley said. “And so, to see not only that there wasn’t a safe space for trans women to speak about police brutality, but also that they were being ostracized from these other sit-ins and demonstrations, I felt like I needed to do something.”
At the event, Minley — the national president of a leather fraternity for trans men, La Fraternité Du Loup-Garou — made a point of stressing that all LGBTQ voices were safe in the protest’s space, but that the floor was not open for all to speak.
The event also provided care packages for those in attendance, to both keep spirits and energy up and to provide food for “marginalized people who may not have had a meal today.”
“Our demands are simple.”
Minley used the base of the monument as a stage to declare a list of demands via megaphone asking for “an end to policing as it exists today in the United States” that includes citizen “access to all unedited records [and] an investigation of any record, accusation or history of wrongdoing by police onto citizenry” and “prosecution of any officer of any rank or standing” shown to have committed acts of violence against citizens. Minley also called for an end to “second-class citizenship, white nationalism, class stratification, wage slavery and violent ostracization from the greater society” and willful ignorance on the part of “cis, het and white folks.” The names of some of the victims of police brutality were also listed: Tony McDade, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
When asked why she attended the event, protestor Tauren Keels said it was personal.
“I am a queer black woman, and I every day watch people that look like me lose their lives to police brutality. This country is not new to oppressing people of color, and I think that the only way this is ever going to change is if we stand together and do something about it. I want to stand with my trans sisters and brothers who are also losing their lives. I mean, trans black women are killed every day so violently; they are not respected,” Keels said. “… [I want people] to realize their own privilege and to recognize that just because doesn’t affect you directly doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. This is a human problem. This is a problem for all people. If one of us isn’t free, none of us are free. … So stand with us, even if you don’t get it, respect it and come here. Help. Have a voice about it. If you see something wrong, say something.”
Having just come from a different demonstration in Royal Oak, a protestor who chose to only be identified as Will seemed hopeful after seeing the turnout at the sit-in.
“I’m here because I want change. And the atmosphere today is amazing as far as all different cultures coming together, because when you deal with hate, hate doesn’t want that. Hate doesn’t want people of different sexual orientations, different communities coming together seeing this,” Will said. “We have to understand that in order for us to be strong we must come together as one not only for protests but also when we have to vote. … We must come and have this conversation and not just do hearsay. Something has to happen.”
Coming to the Crowd
As the event continued, Minley jumped off the monument’s base and walked through the crowd, offering the megaphone to voice the concerns of the crowd. Notably, a protestor addressed the value of meaningful white allyship, instead of empty words.
“Listen for a fucking second. It’s not just support, it’s not just about standing up, it’s about showing up and showing out. We’re not just tired because we’re targets, we’re tired because not only are we having to hear you tell us that you love us we’re having to hear you tell us that you see us. We’re hearing you tell us that you’re listening, but you ain’t doing shit. You want to talk about being radical, but you refuse to disassociate from the folks that are causing us harm? What the fuck is up? That’s not radical,” the protestor said. “… And if our anger makes you resistant, check on that. Look at that, confront your shit. Confront your demons.”
Shortly after the protestor’s statement, heads turned in the crowd toward a significant police presence. More than a dozen police vehicles turned the corner escorting a march thousands-strong that walked down Jefferson Avenue. Marchers carried similar signs and raised fists in solidarity with the demonstrators at the monument.